What storm? Bangor Travel Expo begins Friday

Posted March 31, 2011, at 7:41 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — After the run of bad luck Bret Blanchard has experienced the past two years, the news that the first day of his inaugural Maine Travel & Adventure Expo will be accompanied by a major snowstorm only made him hunch his shoulders and chuckle.

“I basically said, ‘Oh, well.’ It doesn’t bother me one single bit,” said Blanchard, president of First Light Shows, which specializes in organizing trade shows. “Maybe that’ll just add to the cabin fever and make people want to check this out even more.

“What are you gonna do? We are in Maine.”

Indeed we are, but that’s more of a boon for a guy who’s starting up his first company and hosting that company’s first-ever public show — at the Bangor Civic Center on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“Our maximum is 55 booths, my goal was 40, and we have 44 booths reserved representing more than 60 vendors and companies from Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Florida, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Jamaica, and several Caribbean Island resorts and clubs,” Blanchard said.

This is not your typical outdoor or travel show.

“This started out as a travel show, but we decided we were really limiting ourselves with that concept,” Blanchard said. “This is different because we have exhibitors here offering services and products that are very unique.”

Activities such as whitewater rafting, skydiving, whitewater surfing, jump and raft (parachuting from an airplane and whitewater rafting) and hiking will be showcased with presentations, demonstrations and seminars.

There also will be food (Montes International Catering will sell a wide variety of dishes) and live music each day, from bluegrass to jazz and even a ukulele club.

Doors will be open, snow or shine, at noon Friday and remain open until 8 p.m. Blanchard said Friday attendees will receive two door prize entry tickets instead of one to reward them for braving the elements.

Having no plans to close the doors is the kind of stick-to-it attitude that has brought Blanchard this far after he lost his teaching position, for a second time, two years ago.

“I was a boat building and design instructor at Washington County Community College, but that position was dropped, and then at Husson University, but I’ve been unemployed two years now,” said the Falmouth native, who has lived in Dennysville the past 26 years. “It’s been quite a ride coming from nothing to what we have going on right now.”

Blanchard and his wife, Mary Beth, who handles accounting, bookkeeping and business duties, received assistance from the Maine Economic Opportunity Program to form their company. He got the idea for a travel show from a friend, and the two of them tried to form a company to organize one, but never got a show off the ground and parted ways a year ago.

“I also had a lot of support from Bangor International Airport and Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau,” he said. “This is our first show, but we’re looking at doing any kind of outdoor or adventure shows at various times of the year, and we’ve already reserved the civic center and the auditorium next year for April 13, 14 and 15.”

The show also features several door prizes, the biggest of which are a week’s stay at an ecoresort in Mexico, “The Ultimate Adrenaline Rush” skydive-and-whitewater-rafting trip, an Old Town Canoe Camden 120 kayak, and a stay-and-play paddle adventure for two in Old Town.

Expo admission is $5. Admission for senior citizens is $4, and children under age 12 (accompanied by parents) are admitted free. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Door prize winners do not have to be present to win, but if they are, they also will receive a $100 gift certificate to any Bangor store that offers gift certificates.

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